The media scandal that wasn’t

THE MEDIA SCANDAL THAT WASN’T…. There was something about this story that just didn’t seem right. To hear Fox News tell it, Kenneth Feinberg, the Treasury Department’s special pay master, was set to do a round of interviews on Tuesday. Obama administration officials excluded Fox News from the press pool, the story goes, prompting the major networks to revolt and rally behind Fox News.

The network cranked up the indignation machine yesterday, and worked overtime to characterize Fox News as a poor victim of heavy-handed White House abuse. And at first blush, it might seem like the Republican network has a point — trying to exclude Fox News from a press pool at Treasury does seem excessive.

There’s one key problem with the story: it didn’t happen the way Fox News said it happened.

Feinberg did a pen and pad with reporters to brief them on cutting executive compensation. TV correspondents, as they do with everything, asked to get the comments on camera. Treasury officials agreed and made a list of the networks who asked (Fox was not among them).

But logistically, all of the cameras could not get set up in time or with ease for the Feinberg interview, so they opted for a round robin where the networks use one pool camera. Treasury called the White House pool crew and gave them the list of the networks who’d asked for the interview.

The network pool crew noticed Fox wasn’t on the list, was told that they hadn’t asked and the crew said they needed to be included. Treasury called the White House and asked top Obama adviser Anita Dunn. Dunn said yes and Fox’s Major Garrett was among the correspondents to interview Feinberg last night.

Simple as that, we’re told, and the networks don’t want to be seen as heroes for Fox.

“There was no plot to exclude Fox News, and they had the same interview that their competitors did,” a Treasury spokesperson added. “Much ado about absolutely nothing.”

CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid, who was recently seen lobbying from the press briefing room for Ronald Reagan to get a Nobel Peace Prize, told his national television audience that the White House “crossed the line” by trying to exclude Fox.

Except, that didn’t happen. “This White House has demonstrated our willingness to exclude Fox News from newsmaking interviews, but yesterday we did not,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. He added, “The president and other high ranking officials and people like Ken Feinberg have done interviews with Fox in the past and will do them in the future.”

Fox News surely knows that this “controversy” is not what it appears to be, but the network pushed it anyway, hoping to score some cheap points and desperate to position itself as a victim. I can only assume that the relevant details will soon be ignored, and going forward, this “deliberate snub” will be used as an example of a White House gone too far.